Photographs by Zalmaï
Essays by Atiq Rahimi and Daniel Girardin
Zalmaï’s photographs capture the slow, distressing drift of exile and dispossession: spectral figures against a stormy sky, a sheared row of peaks framing a figure like a sacred relic, horizons of men, both of this world and of some timeless land. This is a documentation of a journey through ambiguous territories—from Cuba to India, Mali to the Philippines, Indonesia to Egypt, and a return to Zalmaï’s native Afghanistan—a search for place when one’s own land has been destroyed.
The changing interplay of composition, light, and faces infuse the photographs of Zalmaï in this book, which speaks of transformation and disenfranchisement not just of place but of spirit. Most of all, his work is about the fragility of presence. Moving through space in time, standing in place, a breathless, near-hallucinatory consciousness is felt in each frame. This artist, born in Afghanistan and now carrying a Swiss passport, has lived life traveling lightly among different peoples, a citizen of the world in its largest sense. He has pursued the aesthetic of a landscape of faces and forms memorable for its poetic resonance. These are photographs that have been shaped over centuries by ideas carried in men’s souls—not places given by the gods in their placid beauty. Instead, the interiors of these photographs are tangled and jagged, meandering and menacing, of this earth even as they reach to the sky. In the aggregate, they sketch a fragmented story of dispossession, of a voyage of the spirit, of the complex emotions of return. Paris-based Afghan novelist, Atiq Rahimi, contributes an original preface, “The Memory of the Mirror.” In Eclipse, these two voices offer insight into an Afghanistan lost, but not forgotten, and of the enduring legacy of exile.
An exhibition of the work will open at the Musée d’Elysée, Lausanne in Fall 2002, before traveling internationally. Daniel Girardin, Curator of the Museé d’Elyseé, curated the European exhibition and contributes an essay to this volume.